Treading Lightly through the Holidays
It’s dark because you are trying too hard.
Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. – A. Huxley
In the deep of winter, on the eve of Christmas and in the season of light, it’s easy to get lost in the dark. Really. As paradoxical as it is, the weeks spent leading up to the light of the impending Bethlehem star can actually feel the most weighty.
Because when light is abundant, so is it’s opposite.
And, in the lightness of the holidays, it’s sexy to over-effort.
It’s the obvious thing to do actually — to rush to the malls, to hustle around in a gift-wrapping frenzy. There are to do lists to complete: cookies to bake, churches to light candles in, families to fly home to, friends to schedule in, gingerbread houses to decorate, ice skating rinks to toe pick on, turkeys to baste, cheesecakes to eat too much of, cards to send out, shelters to volunteer at, miles to drive, and that’s only what you are remembering.
All good things can, when listed, can seem a tad overwhelming.
When we allow the hustle to turn into bustle, the rich goodness of our lives to morph into check lists, we suck the life-giving force out of the moments that are meant to restore us.
“Suck the marrow,” wrote Thoreau in his own wintry walk in the woods. Live each moment down to its gooey center. And we do, especially at the holidays. So much so that our activity lists may begin to suck us dry rather than infuse us with life. And so we try to do more, be more, give more…
And we feel our candles flickering in the wind, doing everything they can to stay on.
When really, perhaps, we are being called into a moment of rest. To sit with all that has gone before us. To pause on the last year and remember. To recall the 365 morning steps that brought us again to this fateful Christmas eve, our candles still burning, the wick a little more sturdy, the flame a little more bright even in the windy eve. And to light that candle one final night before we start all over again.
Our dreams are no different. There is a fine line between celebration and frenzy, between perseverance and pushing, between giving it 1000 percent and pausing.
I launched my first book this week. A dream 33 years in the making. It’s called The Virgin Asanas and is available through this link, just in time to slip into your Kindle stocking. I admit, the NYC book launch was magical. The reception of it has been overwhelmingly kind. Yet writing was the easy part. In the last 48 hours, I have spent hours on the phone with the print publishers here in Pennsylvania and even more hours on the phone with the digital distributors over in Seattle, both of which companies occurred hiccups that caused the words, “I’m sorry, but we have never seen an issue like before” to spurn out of their customer service lips. And while, on the large scale, the book is beyond fine, these are not the words you want to hear on the first week of your book launch.
And suddenly, in the midst of the holiday season of my writing career, it’s as though someone had pulled out the Christmas lights from my book dream display.
It is in these moments, when I want to spend hours battling the hotlines of Amazon, that I must step back. Take a deep breath. And remember that dreams are a mixture of effort and angels. Of giving it your all and complete grace. Of banging on doors and getting quiet enough to see which ones open.
As sometimes the open pathways are way better than I could have efforted. Okay, most times. Because miracles have nothing to do with me and, last time I checked, God is way better at performing universe-altering physics than I am.
So yes, even in the light of the holidays, evenings are crisp and the sky gets dark. But that is why winter is the season of snow. If we let ourselves get quiet, settle into the hush of the moment, we begin to hear the flakes falling. Gently. Lightly. Gracefully.
One year ago, last Christmas Eve, after a year spent living out of a suitcase on 3 different continents, I took a moment to stand next to my best friend. We were both in messier moments of our lives, wondering what this next year would bring, wondering where we would end up. As we gazed outside at the stars, a few clouds rolled over, darkening the already midnight blue sky. All seemed far away and we were cold, ready to pack up our moment of pondering and revert back to busyness. But we waited one more moment. And just then, the clouds opened, bursting thousands of tiny sparkles down onto us.
It was the answer we needed. The quiet we hoped for. And the magic we couldn’t have created ourselves.
This holiday season, let us all take a moment to linger. To stand in the unlit sky a little longer than we would like. And to wait expectantly for all that is before us and all that is yet to come.
I leave you with the rest of the poem by Aldous Huxley. May we all learn the joy of becoming like the snow this winter season. To twirl in the air and enter again into grace.
Merry Christmas Eve to you all.
It’s dark because you are trying too hard.
Lightly child. You must learn to do everything lightly.
Yes, feel lightly even though you are feeling deeply.
Just lightly let things happen and lightly hope with them.
Lightly. Lightly — it’s the best advice ever given me.
Throw away your baggage and go forward.
There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling, on tiptoes and no luggage, not even a sponge bag, completely unencumbered.